Taking A Look At The 1992 Dracula

Yesterday’s post on the Lucy wedding dress seems to have struck a chord with our readers so we thought we’d re-post and update a series of posts that we did awhile ago about the costuming in the 1992 production of the movie Dracula.  We first saw the movie when it came out and we were entranced by the costuming, knowing full well of its theatricality- it was simply a visual treat. To this day we periodically watch this movie and not always at Halloween… 🙂 So with that said, enjoy our deep-dive into the world of costuming for the movie Dracula…


For a change of pace, today we’re going to take a look at period costume in a horror movie and in particular, Frances Ford Coppola’s Dracula. Released in 1991, Dracula was a fresh take on the Bram Stocker’s 1897 novel of the same name. The costumes were designed by Eiko Ishioka and the film won an Oscar Award for Costume design. With the story being set in 1897, we’ll be focusing mostly on the Victorian side of the costuming although we note that many non-Victorian elements have been worked in. We’ll begin with what is probably the most iconic dress of the movie, Mina Harker’s green dress. First, we have the costume sketch…

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And then, the finished product…

Mina3577ed0a930af1cada3946d787e8e226eLooking at this dress, the most significant thing that stands out is that the dress style is about a decade too early. The bustle and train give the dress a silhouette more more appropriate to the late 1880s. By the 1890s, and especially 1897, the bustle/train had disappeared and the overall dress silhouette had become vertical.

The color choice, however is good one and it provides a clear, light color that stands in contrast to the people around her who are dressed in a dark, drab/muddy palette. It also must be noted that it picks up tones of the earlier dress worn by Elizabeta in the early prologue scene (although that is sometimes hard to immediately see in varying lighting):

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From the Hollywood Costume Exhibit. Unfortunately, the lighting was not the best here.

From the Hollywood Costume Exhibit. Unfortunately, the lighting was not the best here.

 Below are a few more scenes with the green dress:

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minawalking_smallHere we see more details of the front of the dress. The shirtwaist/coat combination was very common during the late 1880s mostly as a faux shirtwaist/jacket that was actually one unified bodice.

The other element that dates this dress style to the late 1880s are the sleeves. During this time, the sleeve caps either smoothly integrated with the bodice or there was a slight “kickout” or puff on the top of the sleeve cap, a precursor to the leg of mutton or “balloon” sleeves characteristic of the mid 1890s.

Below are some examples of dresses from the late 1880s:

Petersons August 1886

Peterson’s Magazine, August 1886.

Petersons September 1886

Peterson’s Magazine, September 1886.

Fashion Plate, c. 1886

Fashion Plate, c. 1886

As can be seen from the above plates, the faux open outer jacket with a faux shirtwaist or similar was one characteristic of the late 1880s. Also, one can still see small bustles and trains and while the silhouette has become somewhat vertical, it’s not completely there yet, in much the same way with Mina’s green day dress.

Now, lets take a look at the 1890s:

Delineator

The Delineator, June 1897

Delineator2

The Delineator, January 1897

Delineator1898-12Fashions1

The Delineator, December 1898

From the above, we can see that the sleeve caps have increased in size to the “leg of mutton” or “balloon sleeve” look. Moreover, the skirts are even and have an even, cone-like silhouette.

To be continued...





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